Friday, 22 December 2017

The SMB New Year's Technology Checklist

Now let say you've successfully closed out 2017. Resolutions have been made, and you might have raised a hopeful toast to a fresh start in the new year. Now that the holiday stress is over and the celebratory confetti has been swept away, it's time to handle a few technology-related tasks so you have a clear pathway to a successful 2018. Attending to technology issues now means you'll start the new year better prepared to achieve your goals, including those related to greater efficiency, productivity and reduced costs. Plus, the steps you take now can safeguard against unexpected technology expenditures. So while you take note of that, to reduce any baggage that could weigh your business down, we've created a basic checklist designed for managing the technology-related transition from 2017 to 2018.
1. Change your passwords: Do it right now. And don't ever use the same password twice. Changing your passwords is the single most important security step you can take for your business. Instruct your employees to change their passwords now, too. Better yet, use a password manager application to create and store strong passwords.
2. Clean your hardware: Nothing dampens the exhilaration of a fresh start more than working with dirty hardware. Clean your keyboard with compressed air and wipe down the screen and monitor with a static-free cloth. Replace the battery in your mouse and swap that old mousepad with a clean one. Consider replacing cords and cables that have begun to show wear, and tidy up everything behind the desk or table with zip ties or wraps. Now doesn't that feel better?
3. Give your printer some love: Remove, empty and clean paper trays to remove lint, bits of paper and dirt that might have accumulated. Go online and check for software updates issued by the printer manufacturer and download them. Carefully dust the exterior and interior components of the printer. If during your maintenance tasks you discover components in need of repair, now's the time to order and install replacement parts. Make sure you have printer cartridges and paper in stock, because your printer will be working harder than ever this year.
4. Update and upgrade your software applications: So many business owners postpone these tasks, and productivity often suffers as a result. Get this out of the way in January – you'll be more efficient and productive all year long. Run a security check manually now, and while you're at it, make sure your computers are set up to download security updates automatically. If your needs have increased since purchasing your current security and protection programs, upgrade to a more robust solution.
5. Out with the old, in with the new: Take time now to organize your digital files for 2018. Store those old digital files and documents in an archive file on your computer's hard drive, a portable backup and in the cloud.
6. Don't spend another year worrying about backups: When was the last time you reviewed your backup system? (Do you have backup system?) Correct any deficits now to protect your business and reduce worry in the event of a data breach, theft, natural disaster or other loss. The peace of mind that backup systems provide is priceless, and portable drives and cloud storage are cheap.
7. Update (or create) your company's technology inventory: An inventory will avoid unnecessary or duplicate purchases and can aid future budgeting and capital expenditure planning. In addition, you'll have an up-to-date list of all your technology assets in one place in the event of a loss. Log your company's owned and leased desktops and laptops, network hardware, printers, and mobile devices, including phones and tablets. You'll also want to identify serial numbers and models, who has possession of these assets, where the assets are located and lease refresh dates, if applicable.
8. Clear out the digital graveyard: Now is a great time to unload all of the old technology you no longer use. Get rid of old or broken hardware and peripherals by selling them to a tech recycler or simply haul them to the dump. (Remove and destroy hard drives first and follow local regulations for proper disposal.) If you have hardware or peripherals that still operate but haven't been used in years, donate them to a charity that could put them to good use.
9. Evaluate your current IT support: Whether your IT team resides in-house or is outsourced, take a look back over the past year together. Review what worked well and what didn't, and determine what your needs are in 2018. Address any deficits and make changes to outsource contracts or explore new outsourcing options as needed.
10. Create a new year's technology checklist for non-IT employees: Everyone has a stake in well-functioning tech tools. Clearly communicate what's expected of employees when it comes to prepping technology for the new year and maintaining the tech tools provided to them. Now is a good time to discuss the security of personal devices employees bring to work and use while on-site. Review your company's policies, especially if employees have company data stored on their smartphones or other personal devices.
11. Make an appointment with your business insurance agent: If you don't have business insurance, you really should reconsider. Speak with an agent about the policies you should have. If you have a home-based business, you should know that homeowners insurance usually won't cover business-owned equipment losses. If you have business insurance and you've purchased new computer gear or other tech devices in 2017, make sure these items are included in your policy. Also, review your current coverage to make sure you're adequately covered.
12. Meet with a tax professional in early January, if possible: Currently there is the potential for significant, wide-ranging changes to the tax code for the 2018 tax year. It's crucial that you get the straight scoop about new business tax implications from a knowledgeable professional as early as possible. While there's no way to know for certain what these changes are or what might be needed from a compliance standpoint, it's possible that new tax laws might influence the timing of planned technology investments.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Some key things you should know about the Samsung Galaxy S9

In one sense it might seem like the Galaxy S8 just arrived, but we’re already looking ahead to the S9. Samsung blew us away with the Infinity Display and all-glass design of the S8. Expectations are high for S9, as the highly anticipated smartphone sets the stage for the rest of 2018 flagships to follow. Here’s are some key things you should know about Samsung’s next Galaxy phone:
Galaxy S9 design: Samsung made a splash with the 18:9, slim-bezel design of the Galaxy S8 and S8+. Rumors suggest the S9 won’t stray too far from that formula. As serial tipster Evan Blass pointed out on Twitter, this is a “tock” year for the Galaxy S, meaning it will likely focus on performance enhancements rather than physical changes. Code-named Star 1 and Star 2, according to Blass, other reports have suggested that the top and bottom bezels could be trimmed, but otherwise the front of the device will likely look very similar to the S8's. The rear of the device will be quite a bit different, however. The placement of the fingerprint sensor was one of the biggest pain points with the S8, and according to /Leaks, Samsung is expected to move it below the camera with the S9. There may be a new color as well: Sammobile recently reported that the new phone will come in the usual black, gold, and blue variations, with a deep-violet option replacing orchid gray. Enthusiast site 91Mobiles published a set of factory CAD renders of the S9, and the images match up very well with the rumors we've seen so far. Bottom line: few visual changes, but still a beauty.
Galaxy S9 specs and OS: One thing to be noted for sure about the Galaxy S9 is that it will sport the Snapdragon 845 chip. Recently unveiled by Qualcomm, this is the follow-up to the Snapdragon 835 that debuted in the S8 and powered every Android flagship in 2017. Once again, the chip was co-designed with and will be manufactured by Samsung, so there’s a good chance the S9 will once again be the exclusive launch phone. Along with a speed and power efficiency boost, the 845 chip includes a dedicated AI chip, which could provide a boost to Samsung’s Bixby assistant. The chip also includes a Secure Processing Unit for biometric data and payment info, which will work in conjunction with Samsung Knox to make the S9 even more secure. Samsung has also announced that production has started on a 512GB storage chip, but it's unlikely that will end up in the S9. Samsung shipped the S8 with just 64GB of storage, so it's unlikely to jump all the way to 512GB. However, a 128GB model is a possibility. Elsewhere, leaked renders published by China-based site show the buttons and ports will likely stay the same (though we're hoping Samsung lets us change the dedicated Bixby button), including the 3.5mm headphone jack, thankfully. On the OS side, a beta version of Samsung Experience 9.0 based on Oreo is already making the rounds, bringing notification channels and autofill along with some Samsung-specific tweaks such as Edge lighting and new clock widgets. We can assume the S9 will ship with this new version.
Galaxy S9 features: To start with here, biometrics were a big deal on the S8 (the placement of the fingerprint sensor notwithstanding), and Samsung may be upping the ante with the S9. Smartphone supplier Synaptics has announced that it has begun mass production on its new Clear ID in-display fingerprint technology with a “top five OEM.” That could very well mean it's bound for the S9. There have been rumors for months that Samsung has been testing fingerprint scanning under the glass, a feature Apple reportedly scrapped from its iPhone X. While this seems to contradict reports that there will still be a fingerprint sensor on the rear of the device, it's possible that Samsung will offer both options in the S9, with the in-display scanner serving as more of a next-generation beta feature. The rumor mill has all but confirmed that the S9 won’t have a Face ID-style depth-sensing facial scanner, but it will have improved 2D facial scanning, reports Business Korea. Furthermore, the Korea Herald reports that Samsung will be upping the megapixels on its iris sensor from 2MP to 3MP, which will make it able to "better recognize users’ irises even when they wear eyeglasses, move their eyeballs or are in a too dark or too light environment." Additionally, the report says Samsung is tweaking its biometric software to be more accurate.
Galaxy S9 camera: When the Galaxy Note 8 landed with Samsung's first dual camera array, we naturally assumed it would be making its way into the S9 and S9+. That might not be the case. Rumors and schematic leaks suggest that the smaller S9 will be retaining the single camera, while the S9+ will be getting a dual camera, just like Apple differentiates its iPhone models. Furthermore, claim that the main camera on both phones will sport an f/1.5 aperture, wider than the Note 8's f/1.7 and the LG V30's f/1.6, which would help with low-light situations.
Galaxy S9 release: VentureBeat reported that Samsung would be giving out a sneak peak of the Galaxy S9 at CES this year, much earlier than usual. However, a spokesperson dampened those expectations a bit by saying "it is unlikely" that the new phone will make an appearance at the show. That's not a definitive no, though. It's more likely that Samsung will stick to its usual late-winter, early-spring timeframe for the release of the S9. Last year it skipped Mobile World Congress in favor of its own event on March 29, but Sammobile claims that Samsung will once again launch its flagship phones at the Barcelona event.
This story, was originally published by PCWorld.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Choosing Between Job Offers? Your Four Tips for Making a Decision

You're hunting for a job, and you have been interviewed for several positions you are qualified for. Soon enough, the offers start rolling in, but you're torn about which one to choose. Between salary, benefits, company culture and career advancement possibilities, there's a lot to consider. Now on that ground, having multiple offers is an enviable position to be in, but it's not so uncommon, said Margaret Freel, corporate recruiter at TechSmith, a business and academic software company. So if you're debating between two or more offers, here are a few tips to help you make your decision.
1. Determine your priorities: First, you need to consider your priorities – such as location, certain job duties or overall lifestyle – and how well each job would accommodate them. "It's best to start your job search with a list of what you want in the new job," said Jason Dukes, business coach and founder of Captain's Chair Coaching. "So once you begin to receive offers, you can compare the jobs to your list to see which one best fits your criteria, and then choose." Maritza De La Cruz, senior bilingual staff recruiter for Combined Insurance, stressed the importance of a holistic approach to examining a job offer. In other words, don't just consider the money. "Review each opportunity as a whole package in terms of location, salary, benefits, 401(k), medical insurance cost/coverage, bonus, equity," De La Cruz said. "I think it is extremely important that applicants look at company culture fit, financial stability and whether the company empowers you to grow professionally." Most importantly, said De La Cruz, assess how confident you are that you complement the existing team.
2. Consider the potential workplace: One big thing to know here is that, the company culture and type of people you work with will affect your day-to-day and long-term job satisfaction. How happy you'll be overall is the single most important factor to consider, said Joanie Spain, career advisor at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. Freel agreed that, you can learn a lot about how a company operates and treats its employees just from the interview and offer process. "Use your own intuition with things that give you pause for concern. That's an excellent internal barometer to consider in these situations," Freel said. "It's important to not jump to conclusions, though, as well. If there's something you're unsure about, ask questions and see how they answer."
3. Decide within a reasonable timeframe: Regardless that the phone call notifying you of a job offer may seem urgent and intimidating, don't feel pressured to say yes or no on the spot. De La Cruz recommends that candidates who have received a job offer decline or accept within two business days. "In my experience, if a candidate goes beyond that, the prospective employer starts sensing red flags in their mind," she said. Plus, if the prospective employer reacts impatiently to waiting two days for a decision, that is a reflection of the company's office culture, and you should take that into consideration while making your decision.
4. Be your own advocate: If it occurs that the company is putting pressure on you to accept an offer, explain that you would like more time and the reason why, said Freel. If the company truly values you for that position – as opposed to just wanting to fill the position with whomever it can find – it will allow a reasonable amount of time for you to make a decision. "If [they don't], then you may have your answer about how they treat quality candidates," Freel said. Thanks for reading.

Monday, 11 December 2017

The 14 Great Examples of Socially Responsible Businesses

Most of today's consumers care about more than just the quality of your products. They are paying attention to what your company supports, how you create your products and the impact you have on the environment. While you take note of that, it's important to consumers that companies demonstrate corporate social responsibility. In fact, a 2015 Neilsen survey found that nearly two-thirds of global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainably made products. Customers want to know that their money is going toward something good. Many businesses will advertise charitable initiatives, such as annual fundraisers for a cause or a volunteer project their staff worked on. But consumers love companies that weave social responsibility into their entire business model. Still on that ground, here are the 14 examples of organizations that put social good at the heart of their business.
1.Accessibility Partners: Many people take their computers, smartphones and tablets for granted, but for those with disabilities, using these technologies can present significant challenges. Accessibility Partners works with private and public information technology manufacturing companies, federal agencies and other organizations to test and review products that make IT accessible to individuals with disabilities. More than 70 percent of the company's employees have disabilities themselves, so the company promotes disability advocacy in all of its operations.
2.Bravelets: When Stephanie Hanson learned her mother had breast cancer, she tried to put on a brave face. She wanted to create something for her family to remind them to be courageous in the wake of this cancer diagnosis. That's when she created Bravelets. Its mission is to help people be strong during tough times. They achieve this by selling jewelry with the words "Be brave" etched on it. The company donates 10 percent of each sale to a cause you select at checkout. Some causes Bravelets supports include the Cure Alzheimer's Fund, the National Alliance on Mental Illnesses, the Lung Cancer Alliance, the American Cancer Society, Anxiety Awareness, the National Autism Association and much more. To date, Bravelets has donated about $3 million to different charities.
3.Children Inspire Design: Artist and mother Rebecca Peragine began selling her whimsical wall art, cards and posters to promote environmental education for children. In addition to using recycled materials, eco-friendly inks and biodegradable packaging for Peragine's original designs, Children Inspire Design sells handcrafted paper ornaments made by a women's cooperative in Mexico as well as a special poster whose full proceeds go to support the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrtition.
4.The Elephant Pants: As seen on "Shark Tank," The Elephant Pants sells pants, accessories, cardigans and dresses made in Chiang Mai, Thailand, by a team paid twice the minimum wage. Most products are made with bright fabrics with elephants printed on each item. The company donates one dollar for every product sold, and has donated more than $145,000 to organizations dedicated to saving elephants since it was founded in 2014.
6.The Giving Keys: As a "pay it forward company," The Giving Keys employs people who are transitioning out of homelessness and provides full-time jobs at a living wage. With each job, the company offers benefits as well as paid time off for housing, education and case-management appointments. The company sells jewelry with an inspirational word engraved on the item, such as "Dream," "Create," or "Inspire." The Giving Keys encourages people to embrace their word and then pay it forward by giving the product to someone who needs the message. 7.Headbands of Hope: After a life-changing internship at the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Jessica Ekstrom wanted to continue helping children with life-threatening illnesses by starting her own business. Her company, Headbands of Hope, sells made-in-the-U.S. headbands. For every headband sold, it donates 10 percent to childhood cancer charities and gives a headband to a child with cancer. HOH has donated headbands to every children's hospital in the United States.
8.Juntos: This ethically conscious fashion startup designed a shoe inspired by traditional Ecuadorean canvas shoes. For each pair sold, Juntos donates a supply-filled backpack to an at-risk Ecuadorean child to help him or her participate more fully and effectively in school.
9.Krochet Kids: Years ago, three high school friends with a shared love of snow sports learned to crochet their own headwear. Though they sold custom creations to classmates, Krochet Kids fizzled out when the guys went to college – until they realized teaching their skill in developing countries could help break the cycle of poverty. The company earned its nonprofit status in 2008, and today, Krochet Kids is helping more than 150 Ugandans and Peruvians earn a fair wage through the sale of crocheted goods.
9.Love Your Melon: Love Your Melon's mission is to give a hat to every child in America who is battling cancer and to support nonprofit organizations researching a cure for pediatric cancer. The company sells hats and scarfs, and donates 50 percent of their profits to cancer research initiatives. The company has donated more than $2.8 million and 120,000 hats since it was founded in 2012.
10.Out of Africa: Customers of cosmetics company Out of Africa do more than just purchase high-quality shea butter skin care products; they also help improve the quality of life for West African women and children. A portion of Out of Africa's proceeds is donated to organizations that provide education and medical care to children, and the company regularly donates to women's cooperatives that create jobs in West Africa.
11.Prime Five Homes: Homes built by Prime Five Homes aren't your typical houses. Each of these modern, sustainable homes is equipped to use less energy, gas and water, so buyers know they're moving into a property that's better for the environment. A portion of all sales goes to the company's nonprofit arm, the Dream Builders Project, which provides services and monetary donations to select charities.
12.Rainbow Light: Founded in 1981, Rainbow Light started out selling spirulina nutritional supplements to health-conscious consumers. In addition to expanding its line of natural supplements, the company has been committed to improving the health of its customers, trade partners, global community and the planet. As part of its Circle of Care initiative, Rainbow Light helps fight global malnutrition with its supplements through Vitamin Angels, a nonprofit that delivers vitamins to at-risk mothers and babies. It uses 100 percent recycled and recyclable BPA-free packaging. Rainbow Light has donated more than 40 million prenatal tablets since its inception.
13Sand Cloud: Sand Cloud is a beach lifestyle company that sells beach towels, blankets and other accessories. Founded in 2014, Sand Cloud donates 10 percent of profits back to marine life preservation. It has partnered with nonprofits such as the Marine Conservation Institute, the Surfrider Foundation, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, San Diego Coastkeepers and the Hawaii Wildlife Fund.
14.Wanderer Bracelets: Wanderer Bracelets sells products that are hand carved in a hut in Bali by local artists. Since the company was founded in 2014, Wanderer Bracelets has created jobs for more than 150 people living in Bali who are paid three times the local standard wage. Each bracelet is created with all-natural, repurposed water buffalo bone.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Some Resume Tips to Help You Land a Job in 2018

Simple ways to stand out: Your resume is often the first and sometimes the only thing a prospective employer looks at when deciding whether or not to interview you face-to-face. Smart job seekers understand how important it is for resumes to make good impressions, since most hiring managers spend mere seconds assessing this document. That's why it's important to find the right balance of information: You want to put enough to prove that you're qualified, but you don't want to bore the hiring manager with pages of useless bullet points and details. If you want to spruce up your existing resume to compete in the job market, we have rounded up some of the best expert resume tips to help you land an interview.
Check for errors: On this note, make sure you triple-check your own work, and then have someone else look over your resume to ensure it's 100 percent clean. There's no room for sloppiness on your resume, said Obeid – a hiring manager might automatically dismiss your application if they spot a typo or grammatical error. "Make sure it's error-free and easy to read. HR reps equate typos and errors with laziness," Obeid said. "Use good English – the written word has a huge impact on the employer." However, typos aren't the only type of mistakes to watch out for. "Candidates often submit applications addressed to the wrong employer or even outline irrelevant experience to the role," explained Yao. "Most employers are realistic about that fact that you've likely applied to other jobs, but they are looking for evidence that you are seriously interested in the role and care enough to put something cohesive together. Receiving a resume that's crafted and addressed to someone else (or worse, a competitor) can be a huge turnoff and will set a negative tone even if they do choose to continue reading your applications."
List your social media profiles: Most of the hiring managers today search for potential candidates on social networks. Save them a step by providing your profile links on your resume. Seasoned applicants with an existing professional social presence would do well to include URLs for their LinkedIn profile, Twitter account and blog, if applicable. "If, and only if, your social media accounts are filled with professional posts pertaining to your industry, listing them on your resume can be advantageous," said Richie Frieman, author of "Reply All … and Other Ways to Tank Your Career" (St. Martin's Griffin, 2013). "They can show you have a strong network and are up to speed with modern-day marketing and communications practices. The hiring manager will see that you like to keep up with what's happening, and that you care about learning more."
Use the right language stand out: Trite, lackluster descriptions of your job duties and accomplishments won't do you any favors when you're writing a resume. In this sense, make sure you're using strong, action-oriented words like "achieved," "created," "improved" and "managed" to describe your roles and projects, said Sade. This, he said, will make you sound confident while still imparting vital information. "Words such as 'professional,' 'results-driven' and 'detail-oriented' provide very little helpful information," Sade said. "It's better to use actual job titles than these words." Diya Obeid, founder and CEO of applicant tracking software JobDiva, agreed, noting that you should remove buzzwords like "best of breed," "go-getter," "team player" and "go-to person" from your resume.
Think beyond your job duties: One thing you should know here is that, hiring managers don't want to read a list of your daily routine. They want concrete examples of the accomplishments you've made in previous positions. Rangel noted that listing specific merits, rather than just your experiences, is more engaging to read. For example, "I have reduced operating expenses by 23 percent in six months" is far more interesting to an employer than "I have 30 years of sales experience," as Rangel said. Similarly, Cheryl Hyatt, CEO of Hyatt-Fennell Executive Search, advised including any promotions or recognitions you've received since your last resume update. "Integrate recent achievements and awards into the existing format," Hyatt said. "Conversely, it may be time to trim off items you listed previously that are no longer relevant to your focus." You shouldn't ignore your skills section either. Sade reminded job seekers to list any industry-relevant apps or programs they're familiar with, as well as find ways to incorporate examples of their soft skills (e.g., work ethic, multitasking, reliability) into their job descriptions.
Optimize your text: Now, if it happens that a company is using an applicant tracking system (ATS) to collect and scan resumes, a human hiring manager may not ever even glance at your application if it doesn't fit the job criteria they've entered. Trish O'Brien, vice president of human resources at Caliper, emphasized adapting your resume to the position to increase your likelihood of passing the first level. "Make sure you've carefully reviewed the posting and ... [used] the appropriate keywords in your resume to get past the screener," O'Brien said. "Be truthful, but understand that the first pass on your resume is likely via an ATS." "Customize your resume for every single job application," added Dana Locke, certified professional resume writer (CPRW) and manager of the resume and research departments at Impact Group.
Craft a career snapshot: very recently, career experts have urged job seekers to do away with the old "objective" statement and instead include a brief summary, called a "career snapshot," at the top of their resume. "With the career snapshot, you present a branding statement that briefly explains your unique value as well as your skills and qualifications. This would then be followed by a few bullet points that highlight your experience and your accomplishments," said Tomer Sade, CEO of Wise Data Media. "Whatever you list here should be relevant to the position you're applying to." "The top third of your resume is prime resume real estate," added Lisa Rangel, an executive resume writer and official LinkedIn moderator at Chameleon Resumes. "Create a robust summary to capture the hiring manager's eye.
Create a striking visual: Anytime you are creating your resume, avoid dull and tacky formatting. Go with a design that's pleasing to the eyes but also functional. In an interview with Business News Daily, Veronica Yao, a former recruiter and current marketing manager at HigherMe, stressed your resume should be readable and logically structured. "Think about the way a hiring manager would read your resume – starting at the top and ending at the bottom," she said. "However, if they don't finish reading the whole thing – and they often don't – you still want to ensure your strongest points come across.

The five ways the Snapdragon 845 chip will impact 2018 Android flagship phones

If you are thinking that this year's Android flagship phones were fast, wait until next year. Qualcomm has unveiled its next-generation chip, the Snapdragon 845, and it's more than just the next number in the evolution: It's a ground-up redesign of the platform's architecture. And it's sure to have a profound affect on next year's crop of premium Android handsets. Now, while the 835 was mostly focused on performance and speed, the 845 brings a slew of enhancements to how phones will use the processor for AI, photos, and, of course, battery life. We'll probably have to wait until the Galaxy S9 to see it in action—Samsung is once again the manufacturing partner—but once the new chip arrives, it will mean great things for mobile power users. Finally on this note, here are the five ways the new chip will impact future Android flagship phones:
1.Your data will fly: The architecture of the Snapdragon 845 is the same 10nm oct-core processor as the 835, so it's unlikely that the Galaxy S9 or LG V40 will bring much of a performance boost over the S8 and V30. Qualcomm says the 845 chip will bring 30 percent faster graphics than the 835, an impressive technical increase over an already powerful chip, but one that's not likely to be all that noticeable in real-world use. The real speed boost will come from the modem. The 845 uses the second-generation X20 Gigabit LTE modem, which supports for 1.2Gbps Gigabit LTE Category 18 as well as multigigabit 802.11ad Wi-Fi for even faster downloads. Of course, your mileage will vary depending on the network, but Qualcomm says the new modem will enable users to download a 3GB movie in less than three minutes over LTE.
2.They'll last longer: On this note, the 835 brought serious gains in battery life, with many phones using the chip easily making it through a full day of regular use. Qualcomm says the 845 will be 30 percent more power-efficient than the 835, which could push phones into a second day without needing to be charged. Qualcomm has focused on optimizing the chip's cores with the 845, so the processor will be able to delineate tasks intelligently based on power needs. As a result, video recording will utilize 30 percent less power. Thanks to the new Adreno Foveation system, which uses eye-tracking to determine which areas of the screen to fully render, graphics-intensive games and apps won't harpoon your battery life, either.
3.They'll be smarter: Last month, Huawei released the Mate 10 with a dedicated Neural Processing Unit, and the Snapdragon 845 isn't about to be outsmarted. The third generation of the neural processing engine will fully unleash Android phones' machine learning and AI capabilities. Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 845 will support AI frameworks such as Google's TensorFlowLite and FaceBook's Caffe2, as well as being optimized for newer networks. Using a new Hexagon Digital Signal Processor, the chip will be three times faster with AI performance, meaning phones will be more efficient and use less power for common and repetitive tasks. It'll also use a low-power audio subsystem for digital assistants, so talking to your phone all day won't kill your battery.
4.Your pictures and video will be even better: The cameras on our smartphones only do part of the work when it comes to taking pictures. If you don't know, much of the heavy lifting is handled by image signal processors. Qualcomm's Spectra 280 ISP has been greatly improved in the Snapdragon 845. Instead of enhancing the resolution, which has pretty much been maxed out on smartphones, the new chip focuses on color volume, meaning photos will be richer, deeper, and more accurate than before. The new chip will be able to take better photos in low light, thanks to multi-frame noise reduction, faster auto-focus, and accelerated image stabilization. The ISP will also enable better portraits with depth-based face recognition. On the video side, the chip will enable ultra HD premium video capture for 4K 60-fps video, as well as 720p 480-fps slow-motion video capture.
5.Security will be locked down: Like Apple's Secure Enclave, Qualcomm is is bringing to you a Secure Processing Unit on the Snapdragon 845 that will keep your data from falling into the wrong hands. With its own dedicated processor, the SPU will set up a "secure island" to protect fingerprint, iris, and face biometric scans. The secure chip will also store payment information and SIM card data for ultimate peace of mind.
This story, was originally published by PCWorld.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Nine Part-Time Jobs with Benefits

Employee benefits are all the time a major reason why workers choose a given company. A high salary and good culture don't always cut it – employees want basic coverages like health insurance and 401(k) plans, as well as other useful perks. At some companies, only full-timers who work at least 40 hours a week are eligible for benefits. However, some employers extend this option to their part-time staff. So on that note, here are nine companies that offer great benefits to part-time workers.
1. REI: At REI, all full- and part-time employees are eligible for an annual incentive plans. Those who work over 20 hours a week also qualify for the REI Flex Plan, where they choose from various medical plans for themselves and their dependents. The company covers most of the medical plan cost and all the basic life and disability plans. There are additional options like like vision care, orthodontia and long-term care coverage as well. For those who work less than 20 hours a week, REI helps them to navigate the health insurance marketplace. They also offer employees discount programs (50 percent off REI gear and apparel, 30 percent off vendor merchandise and 10 percent off sale items), Yay Days (one day off every six months for outdoor activities), challenge grants (to put toward goals like climbing Mt. Everest), and tuition reimbursement toward higher education for those who plan on staying with the company.
2. Caribou Coffee: Caribou Coffee employees working at least 20 hours a week are eligible for medical, dental and vision insurance for themselves and their dependents. Those working at least 32 hours a week are also eligible for life insurance. In addition to these, any worker over 21 years old can participate in a 401(k) after 90 days of service. All members are given discounts on company products as well.
3. Costco: Although hourly part-timers at Costco must wait a little longer than full-time employees for benefit eligibility (180 days instead of 90), the national wholesale retailer offers a competitive package that includes health, dental and vision care, a 401(k) plan with employer contribution, discounts on prescription medication, child care assistance and life insurance. Employee premium portions or costs are withheld pretax.
4. Lowe's: Lowe's Home Improvement offers eligible part-time workers numerous benefits options that are available after 89 days of continuous employment. This includes preventive care medical, dental and vision insurance, and life insurance. The company also offers other benefits such as corporate wellness programs and learning and development programs.
5. Staples: Staples' plan for part-time workers includes limited vision and dental benefits, life and dependent life, accidental death, short-term disability, and a 401(k) plan.
6. Starbucks: All Starbucks employees, or "partners," working 20 or more hours per week are entitled to a specially tailored benefits package to fit their personal needs. Once a partner has worked at least 240 hours over a three-month period, he or she is eligible for comprehensive health care coverage, discounted stock purchase options, 401(k) with match, educational savings and a time-off program. In a precedent-setting move for the fast-food industry, Starbucks also has a partnership with Arizona State University that allows all eligible U.S. employees to earn a bachelor's degree through ASU's online program, with full or partial tuition coverage. Regardless of the benefits chosen, all partners receive an in-store discount and one free pound of coffee, K-cup pack or tea tin per week.
7. UPS: On the UPS website, the company boasts offering "full-time benefits for part-time employees," from health care plans to tuition assistance. Additionally, a variety of insurance programs, flexible spending accounts and work-life balance programs are available to all UPS workers. Part-time employees can also take advantage of the UPS Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) or Earn and Learn, which provides up to $5,250 in assistance per calendar year with a lifetime maximum of $25,000.
8. Wegmans: Although Wegmans currently only operates in the northeastern U.S., it has consistently been named one of Fortune magazine's 100 best companies to work for since its founding in 1998. Based on its benefits program, the company has certainly earned its spot on that list: Health and dental coverage, spending accounts, adoption assistance, wellness programs and retirement plans are all offered to eligible part-time employees.
9. Whole Foods: Paid time off, health and life insurance, and stock option-retirement plans are just a few of the benefits offered to Whole Foods Market employees who work at least 20 hours a week and have completed a probationary employment period. In addition to a competitive compensation package, all employees receive a store discount of 20 percent or more.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Google offers its Home app a makeover and advanced audio controls, just in time for Max

Just in time for the impending release of its higerh-fidelity Google Home Max smart speaker, Google has offered its Home app a makeover, bringing advanced audio settings, smarter search, and better navigation. So now on that note, anyone who owns an Assistant or Chromecast device knows how easy it is to set it up using the Home app, but now Google is offering us a reason to open more often. The entire app has been redesigned, with a clean aesthetic and more intuitive navigation. For example, when you want to find a movie or song, the search bar is at the bottom of the screen, just like it is on the new Pixel phones. It’s a small change for sure, but it’s much kinder on your fingers.
google home app
In regard to this, the Browse section will now showcase content from your installed services, and you can quickly navigate new and popular shows and movies on Netflix, Hulu, and other apps. Search has been enhanced as well, with some Assistant-like smarts. For example, if you search for “Jeremy Renner Movies” you’ll see movies for sale and videos on YouTube, but a list of options at the bottom of the screen will also invite you to explore Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans movies (since all three stars were in the Avengers movies). You’ll also be able to cast Google Play Store movie trailers within the app and browse through related content, but the coolest addition is the new playback controls. If you tap the device that’s playing, you’ll be taken to a screen that lets you adjust the volume, as well as the bass and treble on some devices. Google says the advanced audio options are available on "Google Assistant supported speakers, like Google Home," but the equalizer icon didn't appear when playing music through my Home devices. The Google Home app update is rolling out to all Android and iOS devices.
How it impacts your Home: First here I'll like to admit, the Google Home app isn’t one I visit very often. In fact, the only time I use it is when I have to set something up, whether it’s a new speaker or adding a smart home device to one of my existing ones. The changes here aren’t groundbreaking by any stretch, but I could see myself using the new Home app for browsing content or adjusting the sound of the speaker, especially when the Google Home Max arrives. This story, was originally published by TechHive.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The Best and Worst Majors (and What You should Do if Yours Falls into the Latter Category)

If you are choosing a college major, it's normal to feel overwhelmed. There are many factors to consider before committing to a specific subject and industry, from money to stability. To offer some guidance on your decision, we outlined the highest-paying, the best and the worst majors – and what to do if your interests fall in a low-paying industry.
Highest-paying majors by degree
A study from PayScale* showed the best-paying jobs for associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees. These are 10 majors in each degree that pay you back, ranked by early- and mid-career salary.
Associate's Degree:
Instrumentation Technology: $42,900-$92,500
Radiation Therapy: $57,900-$87,500
Management Information Systems: $44,200-$78,800
Nuclear Medicine Technology: $57,900-$74,600
Construction Management: $43,100-$73,400
Electrical Engineering: $41,500-$73,200
Electrical Engineering Technology: $41,900-$72,600
Engineering: $39,700-$72,500
Nursing Science: $54,900-$72,400
Economics: $35,500-$72,400
Bachelor's Degree:
Petroleum Engineering: $94,600-$175,500
Actuarial Mathematics: $56,400-$131,700
Actuarial Science: $61,200-$130,800
Nuclear Engineering: $69,000-$127,500
Chemical Engineering: $70,300-$124,500
Marine Engineering: $73,900-$123,200
Economics and Mathematics: $60,000-$122,900
Geophysics: $54,100-$122,200
Cognitive Science: $54,000-$121,900
Electrical Power Engineering: $68,600-$119,100
Master's Degree
Nurse Anesthetist: $140,000-$156,000
Computer Science and Engineering: $95,900-$134,000
Operations Research: $80,800-$130,000
Electrical and Electronics Engineering: $79,500-$129,000
Taxation: $61,100-$129,000
Electrical Engineering: $79,900-$127,000
Technology Management: $65,900-$127,000
Chemical Engineering: $73,100-$125,000
Computer Engineering: $86,700-$125,000
Computer Science: $84,800-$125,000
*Information in this section was taken from an older version of PayScale's study. Overall worst majors
Money isn't everything, and there are plenty of other factors to think about when one is choosing an industry, like hiring demand and job satisfaction. All aspects considered, from pay to projected growth, Kiplinger put together a list of the worst majors:
Radio and Television
Graphic Design
Paralegal Studies
Art History
Exercise Science
Religious Studies
Advice for low-paying majors: The trends may suggest that the communications and art industries are not thriving, while the sciences and mathematics are. But this doesn't mean you should quit your passion without giving it a chance. "Studying a subject you're passionate about is a good idea, whether it's expected to pay well or not," said Stacy Rapacon, online editor at "Just be so sure you go into it with reasonable expectations about what the future might hold for you when it comes to job prospects and potential pay." It all depends on how much you are willing to risk. Now on that note, if you have ambitions burning within you, you might look past the possibilities of low income and instability while focusing strictly on reaching your goals. Or you can find ways to pursue your passions on the side of a sufficient career. Just because you are interested in a given job doesn't mean you need to focus solely on that industry. There are many fields and skills you can study and master that might actually help you in your dream career. "I'd recommend trying to pick up some classes and experience in the fields that are considered more promising," said Rapacon. "You might be surprised to find that you do have some interest in a different field or that you can at least learn some useful skills."

Monday, 6 November 2017

The U11+ is the HTC flagship you desire but can’t have

For a good number of Android die-hards, the U11+ is the phone they’ve been waiting for from HTC. The company’s newest flagship improves on the U11 in every way, with a sleek, modern package that fixes many of its flaws. The only problem is, U.S. buyers won’t be able to buy one. As the name suggests, the U11+ is something of a mid-cycle refresh of the U11. It has the same Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB or 6GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of storage, and the premier Edge Sense quick launch feature. But you wouldn’t know that just by looking at it. HTC has dumped the home button in favor of a rear fingerprint sensor and upgraded the screen to a 6-inch, Quad HD+ 2880x1440 screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio. However, unlike the Galaxy Note 8 and LG V30, the display is still LCD and not AMOLED. Around the back you’ll find an upgraded camera as well. While the specs are largely the same as the U11—12MP UltraPixel 3 with with 1.4μm pixels, an f/1.7 aperture, and optical image stabilization—HTC says the improved full-sensor phase detection autofocus and HDR Boost will make for crisper images. Additionally, the new 8MP front camera uses the same image processing tech as the main camera to capture better selfies, despite the downgrade in megapixels (the U11 has a 16MP sensor). Also improved is the battery. While the U11 has a relatively pedestrian 3,000mAh battery, the U11+ sports a 3,930mAh one, which is going to be able to power those extra pixels and then some. It also features Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3 but no wireless charging. Elsewhere it has IP68 water resistance, Bluetooth 5.0, and BoomSound support with noise-canceling earbuds and aptX 24-bit high resolution wireless audio. The U11+ features HTC’s Edge Sense technology that lets you squeeze the sides of the phone to launch various apps and actions. Similar to what Google has brought to the Pixel 2 but way more customizable, you can now use Edge Sense to launch a radial side menu similar to Air Command on the Galaxy Note 8. Powering the software enhancements will be a new version of HTC’s Sense UI based on Android Oreo. The U11+ will be available in silver, black, and translucent black on November 20 in the UK before expanding to the rest of Europe. HTC says it has no plans to release the U11+ in the U.S.
The story behind the story: HTC kicked off 2017 with the U Ultra, a disappointing 5.7-inch phone that failed to resonate with U.S. buyers. The smaller 5.5-inch U11, on the other hand, was far better received both by reviewers and consumers. HTC has used that evidence to conclude that U.S. buyers aren’t interested in its phablets, which is why it’s releasing the mid-range U11 Life in the U.S. and the U11+ overseas. That’s in one sense a shame, because the U11+ looks like a great phone. HTC might be right in thinking that U.S. buyers care more about the Pixel 2 XL and the Galaxy Note 8 than they would about a 6-inch U11+, but we hope this doesn't mean HTC isn't done with releasing big-screened phones in the U.S. If there’s a silver lining to this strategy, it’s that HTC has proved that it still has some serious design and engineering chops. That could mean good things for the Pixel 3, which will almost surely be made by HTC, since Google bought a large chunk of the company’s smartphone division earlier this year. So now, if you want a flagship 6-inch HTC phone in the U.S., you might only have to wait another 11 months. Thanks...
This story, was originally published by PCWorld.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Fearless Feedback: The 6 Steps to Successful Constructive Criticism

As professionals, it's more than clear that we want to do better and be better. Giving and receiving constructive feedback allows us to see our behavior and work from someone else's perspective, which is important. Two people can always view the same situation completely differently but not even realize it. Now not giving feedback, especially when it's necessary to address unacceptable behavior, has consequences. However, you can create an action plan to provide critical, beneficial feedback. Girl Develop It Detroit chapter leader Aisha Blake presented a workshop entitled "Giving Feedback Fearlessly" at the annual Ela Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 29. "[Feedback] can be scary to give because we can hurt people's feelings, but it can be uncomfortable to receive because we're vulnerable," an audience member explained. Blake identified two types of feedback: positive and constructive. Positive feedback focuses on what we're doing right; it feels gratifying, and it affirms our work. While it might not always be negative, constructive feedback concentrates on how we can improve what we do. "[Constructive feedback] is the feedback we all think about," Blake emphasizes. "We want to make this about behaviors." It sounds much easier said than done, but, don't forget, feedback isn't a personal attack – unless, of course, the feedback is intended to be taken personally. There's a difference though, Blake said, between evaluation and escalation: "If you feel unsafe, that is something you need to bring to someone, whether it's HR, your manager or someone in your workplace," she said. Finally on this note, follow Blake's six-step method to providing effective, constructive feedback.
1. Be specific: The major goal of providing any type of constructive feedback is to change a behavior. The other person won't understand why their behavior is a problem unless you properly articulate the behavior in detail. "Keep it focused and actionable, so that there's a clear path forward," a slide from Blake's presentation read.
2. Deliver feedback proactively: It's crucial to identify conflicts when they first happen. Otherwise, you're more likely to hold a grudge, which can manifest itself in snapping at the other person unintentionally later on. "You don't need to see into the future, but you need to make sure things aren't festering for too long," Blake explained. "So often the problems we have, whether technical or personal ... wouldn't be such a big deal if someone said [something] the first, second or even fifth time, but the seventeenth time, we snap."
3. Take a breath: Any time you stand in a position to confront problematic behavior, it's important to take a step back and let yourself cool off first. Blake invited the entire audience to take a deep breath in and out twice. "Don't jump in angry," the presentation slide stressed. Because constructive feedbacks takes a lot of energy, especially emotional labor, take time to fully process your thoughts. Unless it's an urgent situation, write down how you would describe the behavior and read it out loud to yourself. Make edits as necessary to help prepare yourself for the real face-to-face conversation.
4. Check your bias: In this regard, there are two sides to every story. "Your perception of the issue may not match the other person's lived experience," stated one of Blake's slides. Acknowledging your bias can help, especially if you're in a position of power based on your race or gender. "I've had people [that were] intimidated by the way that I look," Blake mentioned. For example, in her professional experience, she previously had supervisors make assumptions based on her identity, which prevented both of them from communicating effectively with each other.
5. Invite discussion: "Making too many assumptions can hold the conversation back," a presentation slide read. In order to combat assumptions, initiate a discussion with the other person. Don't make it one-sided either. Hear the other person out. After all, you don't know what stresses, outside of the workplace, they carry every single day.
6. Follow through: Now on this note, after an appropriate length of time has passed, evaluate whether the other person's behavior changed. If it changed, ask yourself how it changed. If they addressed and improved their behavior, consider thanking them at the right time. Conversely, if the behavior is still occurring, be prepared to own your experience and don't invalidate how you feel. "At the end of the day, what you feel is not wrong, because it exists," Blake stressed. An audience member suggested that supervisors should engrain both positive and constructive feedback into their office culture to make both receiving and providing feedback more normalized and less anxiety-inducing. Thanks for reading....

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

How you can use Android 8.0 Oreo's autofill API

Android 8.0 Oreo's autofill API is available now to save you from one of technology's biggest hassles: passwords. Google's API allows apps to act as autofill providers at the system level. So, instead of opening a password manager and copying your passwords, the app can simply authenticate you and fill in the information automatically. This feature requires some setup, but it's well worth your time. Autofill was somewhat possible in older versions of Android using the Accessibility service, which gives room for apps to input text and highlight fields. However, this process was slow and extremely buggy. Filling in passwords is not what it was designed to do. Google's Smart Lock came to Android in Nougat, and it worked a little better, but most developers didn't add support. So, the autofill API was devised to make password managers easier to use. Not all password manager apps work with this feature, but most of the big ones have announced support. 1Password, Dashlane, and LastPass have all added support for Oreo that you can try right now, but it's still technically in beta for LastPass. In addition, if you don't use a third-party password manager, you might still be able to use the autofill feature with Google's own autofill service from Chrome.
How you can use Oreo's autofill API: Oreo's autofill features are disabled by default, and they're rather buried. Now to enable autofill, head into your main system settings and look in System > Language & input > Advanced > Autofill service. You can only have one active at a time, but "Autofill with Google" is built into the OS. Any other apps you've installed with support for autofill will also show up in this menu. Google's option pulls in usernames and passwords from Chrome. That means you'll already have access to lots of account credentials in Android if you've been saving things to Chrome on your desktop. Okay, the first time you open an app with a native login field (not an embedded web frame), a window pops up asking you to confirm your Google account so logins can be found. A drop-down list of matching logins will let you pick among several accounts. If you choose a third-party app like LastPass, the authentication step is different. These apps are a bit more secure based on the early implementation. For example, LastPass will ask you to confirm your identity with a fingerprint (if enabled in the app) or LastPass password before it will autofill in other apps. Like the stock Google offering, these apps have drop-down menus where you can choose from all matching accounts before filling the username and password. There's a bit of setup needed, but you'll never have to worry about awkwardly copying and pasting your long, complex passwords on Android again. If you don't have long, complex passwords, you can start using them with the knowledge you won't have to type them in by hand.
This story, was originally published by PC Advisor (UK).

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Holiday Sales: What Your Business Needs to Do Right Now

This year, holiday retail sales are expected to hover around $680 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Given these high stakes, businesses are looking to do all they can to not leave any money on the table. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to preparing a retail operation, whether it's ecommerce or bricks-and-mortar, for an influx of business during the holiday season. But small business experts and experienced owners agree that a blend of time-tested, common-sense steps and innovative approaches can help small businesses take on the holiday sales rush. So with that on ground, here are the nine key steps to get your business ready for the holiday season.
1. Plan and set seasonal goals: Planning is ongoing for every business, but preparation for the busiest shopping time of the year should include a detailed review of last year's holiday sales performance. This information can be used to determine inventory, tailor deals, create promotional offers and set revenue goals for the season. "Make sure that the goals you set for yourself are reasonable and attainable," said Stefan Lewinger, founder and CEO of sock subscription company Sock Fancy. He also reminds fellow business owners that they don't have to define their goals solely on revenue. "Other metrics, like customer engagement and social media following, are . . . great tools to measure your success." Also, spend some time researching the holiday sales strategies of your top competitors and determining the marketing approaches you will use to reach your target customer. Lewinger suggests getting your products included in holiday gift guides or "best of" lists.
2. Review and upgrade technology: In this regard, you need to make sure your technology is ready and able to handle the onslaught of holiday shoppers. You don't want to lose potential customers because your website is down or you can't process credit card orders. This means taking the time earlier in the year to upgrade security software, test checkout and payment processes, check the usability of search functions, and make sure your website is user-friendly and able to handle an increase in traffic. "Small businesses need to ensure that all channels – whether in-store, online or mobile – are all up to date and running smoothly," said Chris Francis, vice president of market development at Worldpay, a provider of payments processing technology. "They must run the necessary tests and evaluations to ensure their technology is working properly, and to avoid any bugs or malfunctions from losing sales."
3. Embrace omnichannel customer experiences: This year, one of the most prominent trends impacting holiday sales is omnichannel retailing, which is defined as an integrated sales approach that creates a seamless shopping experience for customers regardless of whether they are shopping from a desktop, mobile device or store. For example, these customers may buy online but pick up the item in the store, or they may use a smartphone app to compare prices and then make a purchase through a company's website. "By embracing all available sales channels, small businesses can enjoy increased sales during the holiday season," said Francis. According to Francis, omnichannel shoppers are more likely to return to make additional purchases and to recommend brands to family and friends. "Remember what small businesses want to do is to not only increase contact with their customers, but increase the value of that contact too – and they need to be focused on that fact when evaluating omnichannel solutions," he said. One way businesses can be responsive to omnichannel shoppers is by honoring online coupons and in-store deals interchangeably. "If you don't have your holiday deals out now – you should – make sure that all of them are scannable for your in-store sales," said Mike Catania, chief technology officer of coupon website "Nothing is more frustrating than knowing you have a store near you but, in order to get a good deal, you have to order online," added RaShea Drake, B2B specialist with Verizon.
4. Cultivate online sales: Starting here, according to Amit Mathradas, general manager and head of Small Business North America for PayPal, there has been disproportionate holiday shopping growth from online channels. A recently released Walker Sands survey of 1,600 consumers found that 41 percent of respondents completed all or most of their holiday shopping online in 2016, and nearly half said they now prefer to shop online. Additionally, according to Deloitte's retail holiday sales forecast, overall ecommerce sales will grow by 18 to 21 percent from last year's shopping season. Establishing an online store is imperative for all small businesses interested in capturing this ever-growing segment of the holiday market. "An online store makes it easy to show off your holiday specials, create loyalty programs and showcase special products," said Nicolas Beique, founder and CEO of merchant account provider Helcim. Mathradas said that to further capitalize on the growth of online business, merchants need to focus on reducing shopping-cart abandonment (adding items to a virtual shopping cart but not completing the purchase) – particularly on mobile devices. "Online sales and an emphasis on mobile are categorical imperatives," he said. "A site not rendering properly on a mobile device, or any hiccups in payment processing, can cause a ripple effect in terms of lost sales."
5. Market to loyal customers: Acquiring new customers always requires more time and money than getting repeat customers to come back, and this is especially true during the holiday season. Matt Winn, senior manager of segment market communications at HID Global, a manufacturer of secure identity solutions, said that offering highly personalized discounts and promotions to existing customers can be a very effective way to encourage holiday purchases. Richard Stevenson, head of corporate communications at cloud-driven ecommerce software provider ePages, agreed, noting that special "holiday countdown" promotions can encourage customers to come back to your store throughout the season. "Each day, [you can offer] a special price or product combination promotion," Stevenson said. "These can be announced on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. This will not only encourage a direct sale but also create engagement and repeat visits from shoppers curious to see what the next promotion will be."
6. Make use social media to promote your brand: Use tools such as search engines and social media so your customers can find you and stay informed about your products and services when they are ready to buy, Mathradas said. "On a platform like Facebook, you can target the right demographic and ensure that there is a clear call to action, whether a click or a call to drive towards a sale," he added. "Similarly, investing in search terms via Google ensures that you are easily found by customers looking for similar products. This is especially critical for [niche] businesses … to target the right customer as they follow the path to purchase." Now, developing targeted promotional campaigns gives you an opportunity to interact with prospective customers who are looking for holiday recommendations. "Think giveaways, think videos, think content that people want to share with their friends," said Shauna Armitage, chief marketing strategist with Making Moxie, a marketing firm that serves small businesses. "Engagement and virality is the name of the game. Don't just post for the sake of posting," she added. All your social media activity should help you increase brand awareness and customer loyalty. Drake recommends using social media to market early and market often. "Use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter this holiday season to keep in touch with your audience and even have short-term flash sales to keep them checking back with your social accounts, like they're an insider," she said.
7. Make exceptional customer service available: During this high-stress time of year, businesses should ensure that all team members, regardless of position, have the information they need to be responsive to customers' varying needs. "Warehouse personnel and customer service [staff] should be familiar with each holiday campaign so that they can fulfill the right orders, and properly and promptly address customers' issues," said Katy Smith, content manager for CompAndSave, an online provider of printer ink, toner and accessories. If necessary, businesses should also be ready to ask current staff to work longer hours, hire and train seasonal workers, or lengthen hours of operation to accommodate an increase in customer demands.
8. Give out competitive delivery options: You can distinguish yourself from your competitors and win the hearts of last-minute shoppers if you can offer free shipping or quick delivery. "Free shipping raises the perceived value of your product and simultaneously lowers buyer friction," said Augie Kennady, media relations director for ShipMonk, which provides multichannel order fulfillment services. A smart tactic for brick-and-mortar retailers worried about online sales eclipsing their foot traffic this holiday season is to offer an in-store-pickup option for online purchases. Rodney Mason, CEO of Nurture Ranch, a provider of grass-fed beef and meats, said that "buy online, pick up in store" (BOPIS) promotions create a better connection between the online and in-store customer experience. "Getting foot traffic will be crucial to getting many retailers back in the black this holiday season," Mason said. "The BOPIS promotion should prove to be a helpful one this holiday season. This strategy is a win-win – shoppers get an attractive deal during the holiday season, and retailers gain more in-store foot traffic and increase the likelihood of incremental purchasing."
9. Plan for post-holiday business: One thing to note here, is that how you interact with shoppers after the holidays will leave a lasting impact and help determine if they become repeat customers. Lewinger advises finding ways to maintain the momentum of the holiday season well into the new year. Use this time to streamline the process for handling returns as well as develop a strategy for encouraging customers with returns to use their time in your business to make additional purchases. "Find ways to engage with the new customers you made over the holidays as well as reaching out to other potential customers," said Lewinger. "Planning for the post-holiday season can be just as important to make sure you can hop right back into regular sales once the holiday rush comes to an end." Thanks for reading.......

How You Can Start a Podcast

Spiritual teachers Alyssa Malehorn and Zack Fuentes started their day with coffee and a private conversation about spirituality and personal growth. The duo hadn't thought about sharing their discussions with the world until friends and family learned about the lively and insightful conversations that took place during their morning ritual. "They kept saying, 'Man, I wish I could be a fly on the wall,'" said Malehorn. "It gave us the initial thought of starting a podcast." Podcasting is a content format that reaches people who might not otherwise find an organization's messaging and prefer the portability and intimacy of listening to audio content. In the world of today, most listeners fall between the ages of 18 and 54 and are nearly equally distributed between male and females, according to Edison Research. The number of people who listen to podcasts (also known as on-demand audio) is exploding every year, thanks to technology advancements that make creating podcasts and listening to them more convenient and accessible than ever before. One of the biggest benefits of podcasting is positioning yourself as an authority on your topic, which helps influence clients and customers in positive ways that encourage them to purchase your products and services. But in one sense, with millions of hours of podcast audio available today, it's important to find a niche – something that sets your podcast apart from others. Ramp-up to first broadcast can be quick. Malehorn and Fuentes launched their podcast, "Raw Spirituality," a couple of weeks after the idea was first hatched. Best of all, you don’t need to be a technophile or have a big budget to start a podcast.
Where to start? Here's the basic podcast startup checklist.
1. Create content that's highly targeted and conversational: Podcasts are often compared to talk radio broadcasts. But unlike radio, podcasts are more prolific and delivered on demand. Listeners tune in whenever they want, wherever they happen to be at the time. Tuning in to your podcast and consuming your content only just requires a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. Always keep in mind that the objective of a podcast is to connect with listeners and build a community of relationships with each and every listener over time. They'll be investing 30 minutes or more to listen to what you have to say, so make it worth their time. If your industry is underserved in the podcast universe, it's likely that there are listeners out there who are hungry for information and actively searching for new content. Carve out a topic niche in which you can easily and authoritatively speak for long stretches, in language that's informal and engaging. Don't count on podcasts as a way to generate revenue. Monetization comes with large numbers of weekly downloads, not subscribers, and that's challenging for most podcasters to achieve. Instead, think of podcasting as a way to reach more people. When it comes to choosing a subject, make sure it's something you're passionate about. If you're not in love with the topic you're talking about, podcasting will be a struggle and listeners will hear that in your voice. "You want to talk about something you find very exciting," said Malehorn.
2. Throw out the scripts: Now...before we talk about equipment needed to produce a podcast, understand that podcasting is no place for a teleprompter. A short topic outline might prove helpful, but successful podcasters don't use scripts because they lead to stilted language that doesn't resonate with listeners. Podcasts that feel like an advertisement or resemble college lectures won't cut it either. Be your authentic self. Talk about what you know, using essentially the same words and tone you normally use when conversing with a close friend. Successful podcasts allow listeners to get to know the podcasters, warts and all. "A lot of people who start podcasts think they have to be perfect. Relax into what you're doing. Your listeners are friendly, and if you're engaging with them, you're getting to know them too," Malehorn said. "Being authentic helps build the community. We feel that sense of community, and that allows us to relax and just go for it." Talking into a microphone for 30 minutes or longer might take some getting used to. Try to imagine yourself talking to an individual person, one-on-one, about a single aspect in your area of expertise and take the conversation wherever it leads. Better yet, consider different formats, such as expert interviews and multiple hosts.
3. Acquire hardware and peripherals capable of recording high-quality audio: Here, you don't need a professional studio with fancy equipment. All that's required is a laptop or tablet, audio recording and editing software, and a high-quality microphone to record the audio. Probably the most important piece of equipment for podcasting is the microphone. Skimp on this item and the resulting lack of audio crispness and clarity could brand your podcast as amateurish. Look for a USB microphone that plugs into the USB port of your computer. Do not use the computer's built-in microphone. There are some basic microphones on the market for under $100, but if you're serious about podcasting, you'll want to budget for a higher-quality model – anywhere from $125 to $300. Many podcasters swear by Blue Yeti USB microphones. Condenser microphones also provide rich sounds and are available within the same budget range. Be sure to buy enough microphones for all your podcast's speakers. Browse products (and talk or chat with customer service representatives) at online retailers like B&H to see the full range of microphones available. Consider purchasing a pop filter to muffle or reduce the likelihood of recording the clicking or smacking sounds so many people make when speaking normally into a microphone. Audio should ideally be recorded in a small area, away from cars and nature noises. To reduce editing time, consider sectioning off the room and adding some dense sound-absorbing materials to reduce noise and sound reflections within the room – rugs or carpet on the floor and blankets on rods around the space in which you'll be recording, for example. Some podcasters record in a closet, where carpeted floors and hanging clothing absorb most ambient sounds. Check out some examples of pop and reflection filters. You'll need audio software to create your podcast. If you already own a MacBook or iPad, you are already ahead of the recording and editing game. Apple's laptops and tablets typically come equipped with GarageBand, a professional-level studio editing application that's free and easy to use. For PC users, such applications as Audacity and Adobe Audition work similarly to GarageBand. Audacity is free, and Audition is available for a monthly subscription. Intros and outros are short voiceovers, usually with music, that introduces each podcast episode and the host(s). You can record these yourself or hire a professional voiceover person to record your intro and outro for you. An intro and outro for your podcast add personality and professionalism. Once you edit the audio recording and add images and music for the podcast intro (the beginning of the podcast) and outro (the end of the podcast), you're ready to export the finished podcast to your website and the distribution platforms of your choice.
4. Upload podcasts to your website and multiple distribution platforms to reach a wide audience: First here, check with your current web hosting company, but you'll probably need a separate host for your audio files because of file size. When determining how much storage space you'll need, consider how many episodes you'll record each week and multiply to figure out your storage needs – and then try to get an option to quickly increase space, just in case you need more file space. After you have your web hosting squared away and at least one episode uploaded, your media host will provide you with an RSS feed. This is the feed you'll submit to platforms like iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Spotify. Make sure your podcast landing page on these platforms includes beautiful podcast art that reflects the look and feel of your podcast. Platforms such as iTunes pay attention to details like artwork and podcast description text.
5. Launch your podcast with two or three episodes: Now in order to generate more buzz on launch day, get several episodes already completed and uploaded. Announce the launch in advance to your business network via email and social media. The idea is to build a small audience before you launch. To improve your chances of getting noticed and possibly featured by iTunes, be sure to encourage new listeners to subscribe to your podcast and leave a review.
Your first step: Listen to popular podcasts and set your goals.
There are dozens and dozens of categories and subcategories of podcasts on iTunes. To find out what works and what doesn't work, listen to a wide variety of them – including those that aren't in your industry or topic area – to learn how others conduct themselves on air. The best podcasts are conversations, not sales pitches. Malehorn and Fuentes say the goal for their podcast was focused around the energy of giving a gift to others. They planned their podcast for like-minded people interested in spiritual growth, and their broadcasts provide insights to help listeners improve their lives. "As spiritual teachers, we don't put a lot of energy into developing a brand," Fuentes said. "We looked at podcasting as a way to reach more people." That's the right approach, no matter the industry or topic. Connecting and engaging with more people should be every podcaster's primary objective. Deliver the information listeners need most, and branding will naturally follow. Thanks for reading....

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Movies Anywhere is going to merge your iTunes, Google, Vudu, and Amazon libraries: Here's how

For so many years, Disney Movies Anywhere has been the unsung hero of the digital world. With a simple sign-in, your Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and, of course Disney, flicks could be accessed on any device, regardless of where they were purchased. And now Disney is bringing that magical streaming convenience to the rest of your iTunes, Play Store, Vudu, and Amazon libraries. Starting from today, Disney is dropping its name from Movies Anywhere, and is expanding the service to include more than 7,000 titles from Fox, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. That opens it up to a much wider selection of films, and eliminates the need to download and sign into various apps just to watch something on a different device.
The impactation on you at home: In a word, this is very big. Ever since the first movies were released digitally, we’ve wanted a universal locker to store them all and easy access across all of our devices. As someone who often switches between iOS and Android, I’ve had to repurchase movies too many times just because I wanted to watch it on a different device (I’m looking at you, iTunes). But now those days are nearly behind us. There’s still a long way to go, of course, but this is a giant step toward creating a friendly, seamless way to carry your movie collection across devices. And maybe, just maybe this will be the final blow to the awful Ultraviolet service Hollywood keeps pushing on us.
Anywhere and everywhere: The service will for sure work with Apple’s iTunes, Google’s Play Movies, Vudu, and Amazon, and it’s just as easy to use as it was before. Here’s how it works:
1.Download the Movies Anywhere app from the iOS, Google Play Store or Amazon app store.
2.Tap the Get Started button and choose how you want to sign in (Google, Facebook, or email).
3.Once you’re logged, select Manage Retailers (on Android phones you’ll need to click the menu icon at the top left first).
4.Choose the service you want to connect. (You’ll need to be on an iPhone in order to link your iTunes account, and you’ll be taken to the iTunes Store).
5.Tap on the My Movies tab to browse your library.
That’s all you need to do to make it work. The app grabbed a significant chunk of my movie library, which is quite large. Of the 300 or so titles I own, 178 turned up in the Movies Anywhere app. I assume more studios (such as Lionsgate and Paramount) will sign on as the service spreads in popularity. The app is available for Apple TV, Roku, Kindle Fire, and Fire TV devices, and it also supports Chromecast. You’ll notice that Microsoft isn’t one of the services supported, so Surface users are out of luck. That's not a complete surprise, as Microsoft Movies was dropped from the Disney Movies Anywhere app in September. Movies can be downloaded or streamed, but they only play in HD, so Apple TV 4K users will still want to use the Movies app for 2160p content. Anyone who signs up for the service can get up to five movies for free: two after linking the first account (the original Ice Age and the latest Ghostbusters), and three more after linking the second (Big Hero 6, Jason Bourne, and The Lego Movie).
This story, was originally published by TechHive.
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How You Can Make Great Headshots, Even if You're Camera Shy

Before now, it used to be that only executives and model/actor types needed headshots, but now thanks to the proliferation of online professional networks, and a general increase in online visibility across all industries, everyone from office administrators and restaurant owners to dentists and government employees is getting in the headshot game. If you're not a fan of having your photo taken, but you know you need a professional headshot, you're not alone. Luckily, there are several tried-and-true tips that help make the experience painless. We talked to professional photographers to get their take on how regular people can find a great headshot photographer and get top-notch photos. Here's what they said.
Finding the right photographer You don't have to be licensed or certified to be a professional photographer, and lots of people dream of working in photography. Both these facts lead to a staggering number of headshot photographers to choose from, and they vary drastically in terms of pricing and quality. Almost every photographer we spoke with said asking to see examples of past work is the first step to finding a great headshot photographer. In addition to checking out each photographer's portfolio, several photographers mentioned that it's smart to ask to see a complete set of photos from a single photoshoot, as this will help you determine whether the photographer in question is talented or merely able to get a few salvageable shots out of hundreds. Ashley Lodge, the photographer behind Ashley Lodge Photography, recommends people go one step further in their assessment of photographers and look at each image with a critical eye. "Overly Photoshopped images are unflattering on any human with pores," she said. "Eyes should not be ultrawhite or brightly colored, and if teeth look unnaturally white, most likely it is the work of some bad Photoshop. While it may look good for a moment on a small computer screen or cellphone, a print will show every bit of over-the-top editing. Be aware. Ask to see at least five different headshot assignments. Look for quality [and] consistency." Another tip multiple photographers mentioned was asking for clarification on what is included with each headshot session. Mike Peyzner, a professional photographer based in San Francisco, recommended asking specifically about whether you will receive all of the high-resolution images (free of watermarks) taken that day. Some photographers give their clients access to all of the images taken during a given session, while others require their clients to choose a set number for use/purchase. The same is true for retouching, so if you want your images Photoshopped, make sure you know what's included in the base price and what will cost extra.
Collaborating with your photographer: Now on this note, feeling comfortable enough to collaborate with your photographer is key to getting great headshots, especially if you tend to be anxious. When asked about finding a pro, Irina Smirnova, the photographer and founder of Power Portraits said, "The most important thing is connection and open communication … Many people can take great photos. [The] question is will you be able to relax with them and let the magic happen?" Smirnova says the best way to make sure you and your photographer are on the same page is to schedule a consultation to get to know each other. Walk away if something doesn't sit right, she added. In addition to asking questions about the process, Smirnova explained, it's important for clients to speak up about their expectations. "If you want your entrepreneurial story captured in one picture, the photographer needs to know it well enough to make valuable suggestions and create a perfect atmosphere for it," said Smirnova. Many photographers we interviewed echoed Smirnova's sentiments about the importance of communication between photographer and subject. The traditional close-cropped, polished headshot that still works well for professionals in formal work environments (like corporate lawyers or doctors) may be far too stuffy for creative professionals or people who work in more casual settings. Nicole Taylor, the photographer and founder behind Whole Lotta Grace Photography, summed it up well when she said, "It is important that your photographer ask you questions about your profession and what you do in your day to day so they can understand the story you are trying to tell." She said that explaining who you are, what you do, and where you plan on using your headshots will help your photographer understand your vision and deliver a product you're happy with. After all, a photo that's going to be used as a large banner on a personal website can include more background detail and context than a headshot that will be used as a tiny thumbnail on social networking sites. Finally make sure your goals for your headshot are clearly defined and articulated to your photographer before the day of the shoot. If you get the sense that they don't understand you, aren't good listeners or aren't grasping what you need, find someone else.
Choosing a look: As we mentioned, what is considered professional for a headshot no longer fits into the narrow confines of the past, back to that time when nearly all headshots included a grey backdrop, a black suit and closely cropped composition. However, there are still some general rules in terms of clothing and styling that most people will benefit from by following. If you have no idea where to start in terms of selecting an outfit, Lydia Kearney Carlis, Ph.D., and Washington D.C.-based photographer at Eyemagination Imaging, said, "The most important prompt I use during a style consultation with private-session clients is 'Tell me about the last outfit you wore to work that you felt completely confident in. Close your eyes and describe the look to me, from hair to accessories to shoes.'" Kearney Carlis also said it's not usually necessary for her clients to purchase a new outfit for a headshot appointment. Most people already have clothing they like in their wardrobes. Many photographers we spoke with said similar things to Kearney Carlis regarding hairstyles, accessories and makeup. The main takeaway was be yourself, and don't mix it up too much for your headshots. If you wear makeup daily, replicate that look for your headshots, but if you don't, there's no need to get done up for photos. Likewise, don't opt for a new haircut right before your shoot, or try a totally new style of clothing out for the first time. Stick with what works for you. Mike Peyzner, who has more than 12 years of professional photography experience, added that it's important for people to get plenty of sleep the night before their photo shoot, drink plenty of water, and eat prior to the appointment. "Hungry people generally don't look very good," he said. While that may sound a little silly, several other photographers mentioned the same three tips. Just one other styling tip was mentioned over and over again by different photographers: Bring a second shirt, just in case. Accidents happen, and sometimes your personal taste can fail you.
Looking confident when you're uncomfortable: Only if you're regularly in the public eye, you probably have some nervousness about getting your picture taken. Mike Nakumura, like most professional photographers, is familiar with that sense of trepidation. Nakumura said, "The most common expression I hear is, 'I hate having my picture taken.'" He explained that it's the photographer's job to put clients at ease, "When I meet a customer and interact on the phone [with them], I am gathering information on what will help them relax. There is a bit of mirroring happening to help them get comfortable, and we work together to bring their confidence up to the point where they are 'owning' their session." Photographer Taylor agreed that making people comfortable in front of the camera is largely the photographer's onus, but she also provided some helpful tips for those who are especially nervous: "Taking headshots can feel incredibly invasive and uncomfortable […] There are several tricks I have when shooting my clients to help them to engage with me so I can get the authentic shots that I know we both want to see. You don't need to be looking at the camera for every shot. Look away, try smiling, laughing and not smiling at all. Keep in mind to have great posture too," she said. "One trick I often use is having my client breathe in really [deeply], then exhaling and smiling or exhaling and verbally laughing out loud. It seems ridiculous, but oftentimes it creates authentic laughter, and nine times out of 10, those end up being my favorite shots."
Conclusion: If you do your research, choose a photographer you're comfortable with and style yourself in a way that's put together but still reflective of your day-to-day look, most can skate through the headshot process without much trouble. Thanks....
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